Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Dave Oliver says he is prepared to face a “hostile” Federal Government head-on to push for optimum conditions for Australian workers.
Mr Oliver’s comments, made during an address at the National Press Club on Wednesday, come just days before the government hands down its second budget on Tuesday night.
Mr Oliver said the upcoming budget needed to be one that created jobs.
“Stubbornly high unemployment at and above 6 per cent over the last 10 months places the nation at risk of entrenched long term structural unemployment,” Mr Oliver said.
He said in order to achieve lasting economic change, there needed to be collaboration between governments, unions and employers.
This will also be addressed at the upcoming ACTU Congress in three weeks’ time, he said.
“The last time Australian workers were confronted by a hostile government with no vision for the future the union movement came together, we pooled our resources and we made a difference,” Mr Oliver said.
“In three weeks’ time, we will do it again.
“I think everyone in this room today would agree that the 1980s and early 1990s were a golden age for economic and social reform in Australia.
“The Hawke and Keating governments, in partnership with the union movement through The Accord, reshaped and modernised our economy, made Australia globally competitive, and established some of the pillars of our social contract, such as Medicare and universal superannuation.”
Mr Oliver continued, saying just one week ago the president of the Business Council, Catherine Livingstone, stood in the same spot where he was and said: “It’s time for Governments, business and unions to come together to talk about productivity”.
“Well, I couldn’t agree more,” Mr Oliver said.
“But the conversation won’t get very far if all the business community wants to talk about is “flexibility” – cutting wages, cutting penalty rates, making it easier to sack people, widening the use of individual contracts and reducing people’s rights at work.
“So it’s very disappointing when someone like Kate Carnell from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry also stands here at the Press Club and spends all her time talking about wage costs and penalty rates. That is the low road.
“And I know that business can be better than this.
“We want the high road where the government leads the way by investing in transport, infrastructure, skills and knowledge, and encouraging innovation – all while continuing to provide a safety net to support those who cannot always support themselves.”